Mary died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at her home in Ottawa on July 19, 2019, with her son Michael at her side. Mary, a poet and researcher, was a “bride married to amazement,” as one of her favourite poets, Mary Oliver wrote. Her curiosity, courage and zest for life continued to shine in her last weeks. Mary’s many enthusiasms included poetry and the visual arts, birding and nature walks, Georgian Bay waters, and good conversation. Devoted wife of 48 years to her late husband Jack, Mary will be lovingly remembered by Michael, his wife Lisa Ennis, her granddaughter Aria, her brother John Baillie and sister Jane Baillie-Sipherd, and cherished cousins, friends and Sherwood Park neighbours.
She was born in Hamilton on April 16, 1938, to John and Helen Baillie. Mary was “queen of the springboard” growing up, as she wrote in her poem “The Dive,” from Engagement Calendar. She excelled in sports and academics at Strathallan School, and then studied English and French at McGill and U of T. Mary met the love of her life Jack Rutherford at the CBC, and they married in 1965. She was chief researcher on the Pierre Berton Show, and supervisor of research services at TVO. In 1968, she and Jack moved to Washington, D.C., where Michael was born. They returned to Toronto in 1976, and the family grew with the arrival of Trapper, the bugling beagle. Mary became research editor of the Imperial Oil Review in 1980.
On retirement in 1993, she faced her “swimmer’s moment” and found a new direction: poetry. Her poems were shortlisted for the 2005 CBC Literary Awards and her collection Engagement Calendar was released by Inanna Publications in 2013. That same year she and Jack celebrated the birth of Aria, just three months before Jack died. Mary continued to write, travel and relish visits with family and friends. She moved with determination to Ottawa this past spring to be close to her family, make new discoveries and new friends, and as Thoreau wrote, “suck out all the marrow of life.” In “Primum Vivere,” from Engagement Calendar, Mary wrote: “You have fathomed the whirlpool’s eye, cannot wish away / the fear. Yet a whirling fills your spirit with such thirst. / Primum vivere. You know you must begin again.”
A celebration of her life will be held at Beechwood National Memorial Centre, 280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa at 1pm on September 21, 2019 with reception to follow. Donations in her memory may be made to Lymphoma Canada.